Rising murder rates among the Palestinian citizens of Israel have ignited a debate between police and civilians regarding the force’s negligence of Arab neighbourhoods and the practice of segregating communities within the country.
The debate comes after seven Arab Israelis were shot to death over the past week, four on the same day, bringing to 68 the number of those killed in shootings so far this year. It is the latest in a sharp rise in the murder rate among Palestinians of Israel who constitute a fifth of the population but make up 63 per cent of murder victims over the past two years. Palestinian citizens of Israel account for 80 per cent of those killed so far this year.
Following the shooting of those four Arab Israelis at a wedding in the town of Basmat Tab’un on Saturday, Israel Police claimed that the rising murder rates are a result of a vendetta culture, claiming the shooting was part of an ongoing dispute.
Police also accuse the leadership of the Arab community of preventing police stations from opening in these areas and of failing to sufficiently have criminals turn their guns in as part of a 2017 initiative. The same initiative is being planned to be launched next month.
Leaders in the Arab Israeli community, however, reject the claims, instead saying that the increasing murder rate is due to the inaction and negligence of Israel Police and the fact that they see Palestinians fighting amongst themselves as convenient and unimportant.
Member of the Knesset (MK) Yousef Jabareen, from the Joint List alliance, told MEMO: “This alarming situation of continued internal violence in our community has become a troubling, daily reality for the Arab citizens and deprives them of sleep at night, eliminates any sense of personal security and becomes a recurrent event as days go because of increasing number of firearms shooting, murder and crime raging in the streets.”
Jabareen stated that the number of Palestinian citizens of Israel killed and wounded, and the damage to their properties since the beginning of this year all “lead the Arab citizens to a sense of helplessness mixed with a lawlessness, inaction, and lack of effective response of governmental authorities to protect the most basic human right – life!”
He added that 95 per cent of the files opened between 2014 and 2016 for firearms assaults in residential areas are suspected of being from within the Arab Israeli community; a figure that is rising every year. “Furthermore, both the Israel State Comptroller’s report and the daily reality show that police forces repeatedly fail to protect the Arab citizens, to control this phenomenon or the criminal organisation.”
Speaking to Haaretz Ahmed Tibi, leader of the Balad party, said that despite his efforts to convince communities to hand over their guns for years, Arab leaders and lawmakers are still being blamed. The main issue is that “We [Palestinians of Israel] don’t have a private police force.” This, he said, alienates the police from the citizens, who are both from different communities and political interests. “How is it there are more guns in Gaza but less crime and murder?” he asked. “Simply because the police don’t treat the people like the enemy.”